Forrest Smithson – Olympic Champion

Forrest Custer Smithson (September 26, 1884 – November 24, 1962) was an American athlete, winner of 110m hurdles at the 1908 Summer Olympics.

Born in Portland, Oregon, Forrest Smithson, a student of theology from Yale University, was an AAU champion in 1907 and 1909 in 120yd hurdles.

At the 1908 games in London, the main favourites were Smithson’s teammates John Garrels and Arthur Shaw who had earlier equalled to Alvin Kraenzlein’s world record of 15.2. The 110m hurdles weren’t contested on a track as usual, but on a special path on a stadion grass. Only Americans reached the final, which was run on the last day of the London Games. The start was excellent, but Smithson gained slightly over each hurdle in perfect style, and won by five yards ahead of Garrels, running a new world record of 15 seconds precisely.

The results were:

1. Forrest SMITHSON (USA) 15.0 WR
2. John GARRELS (USA) 15.7
3. Arthur SHAW (USA) 15.8
4. William RAND (USA) 16.0

The wide-spread story about Smithson winning his gold by carrying a Bible in his left hand, to protest against the decision to run the 110 m hurdles final on a Sunday is hoax. Firstly, none of the 110m hurdles heats or the final were scheduled or planned to run on a Sunday.

Also this story wasn’t mentioned in the newspapers or the official report. This story is probably based on a picture published in the official report. But this picture is taken after the final and clearly posed. The only true statement of this story is, that Smithson was a highly religious man.

Forrest Smithson died in Contra Costa County, California, aged 78.

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